CHURCHES in Khartoum were unable to celebrate Pentecost on Sunday because of a curfew by the Sudan government. It was imposed after Darfur fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) attacked the city on Saturday, the first time they have managed to reach the capital, writes Pat Ashworth.
The attack by JEM, whose weapons Sudan says come from Chad, led the government to sever its relations with Chad. President Bashir of Sudan alleged on Sunday that the JEM forces were “basically Chadian forces supported by Chad”.
Hundreds of fighters and about 200 vehicles with heavy machine-guns were involved in the attack. The fighters also attacked Omdurman, which lies across the Nile from Khartoum, on Saturday.
The Darfur conflict, which began in 2003, has led to 200,000 deaths and 2.5 million people being made homeless. A flawed peace agreement was signed in 2006 by only one of three rebel negotiating groups, and it was not signed by JEM, the largest. It has demanded peace talks with Sudan, mediated by the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.
Aid agencies had already warned about the situation in Chad, where an estimated 240,000 refugees from Darfur are living. After fierce fighting in the capital, N’Djamena, they wanted an estimated 8000 refugees to move into camps in Chad, but the Chadian government resisted this. Several agencies moved international staff out after the fighting (News, 29 February).